NLRB rules stack deck against business

President Barack Obama recently joked, in reference to the make-work projects in his failed $821 billion economic stimulus package, that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”

The comment revealed that his administration’s ignoring of the real-world effects of its actions, in some cases deliberately, is a problem that starts at the top.

There has been no more egregious example of this than the actions of the National Labor Relations Board, which Obama packed with union-friendly appointees. Coming on the heels of its acting general counsel’s lawsuit against Boeing for opening a non-union factory in South Carolina, the NLRB this week voted in favor of proposed rules that would rapidly speed up the pace of union elections.

Big Labor has won more than two-thirds of workplace representation elections last year. Union leaders can secretly meet with workers, potentially for over a year, to make their case. Yet once an election gets called, business owners have a matter of weeks to counter their claims.

“It’s akin to saying Republicans get a year and a half to campaign, but on Oct. 16, the Democrats can start campaigning,” said Brett McMahon, vice president of non-union Miller and Long Construction, based in Bethesda, Md.

Small-business owners find themselves suddenly thrust into a union campaign and scrambling to understand labor law.

“It’s a lot easier for a guy like me than a guy that doesn’t have a clue, who has never been in an industry where this has ever been a concern, doesn’t even know what the NLRB is — which, frankly, most business people don’t,” McMahon said.Currently, the median time for an election is 38 days, meaning that a small business essentially grinds to a halt as its owner plays catch-up to a union that has had a significant head start.

The NRLB’s latest rules would reduce the time for elections to a ridiculous 10 to 21 days. Employers would be forced to appear at a hearing within a week and complete a legal questionnaire, which locks them into any positions they take.

“You can imagine a small business of 25 employees that doesn’t have an attorney, much less access to an attorney who is knowledgeable to this aspect of the law, and he has seven days to respond to this questionnaire,” said former NLRB Chairman Peter Schaumber. “The timing and what must happen, for most employers, is an insane schedule that will effectively deprive small businesses of legal representation and due process.”

Further complicating matters is that the union faces no restrictions on the lofty promises it can make to workers, whereas the free speech rights of employers are heavily restricted (which is why none of them were willing to go on record for this article).

Peter List, a former union activist who now helps employers with labor relations and edits the website, said, “It’s going to catch a lot of employers off guard who don’t know what the process is. They’re going to make stupid mistakes. … A lot of these companies will not survive, especially smaller ones.”

Philip Klein is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner.

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